[Beowulf] coprocessor to do "physics calculations"

Mark Hahn hahn at physics.mcmaster.ca
Sun May 14 11:37:22 PDT 2006

> Didn't see anyone post this link regarding Aegia Physix processor. It is the most comprehensive write up I have seen.
> http://www.blachford.info/computer/articles/PhysX1.html

yes, and even so it's not very helpful.  "fabric connecting compute and
memory elements" pretty well covers it!  the block diagram they give
could almost apply directly to Cell, for instance.

fundamentally, about these cell/aegia/gpu/fpga approaches,
you have to ask:

	- how cheap will it be in final, off-the-shelf systems?  GPUs
	are most attractive this way, since absurd gaming cards have 
	become a check-off even on corporate PCs (and thus high volume.)
	it's unclear to me whether Cell will go into any million-unit 
	products other than dedicated game consoles.

	- does it run efficiently-enough?  most sci/eng I see is pretty
	firmly based on 64b FP, often with large data.  but afaikt, 
	Cell (eg) doesn't do well on anything but in-cache 32b FP.
	GPUs have tantalizingly high local-mem bandwidth, but also 
	don't really do anything higher than 32b.

	- how much time will it take to adapt to the peculiar programming
	model necessary for the device?  during the time spent on that,
	what will happen to the general-pupose CPU market?

I think price, performance and time-to-market are all stacked against this 
approach, at least for academic/research HPC.  it would be different if the
general-purpose CPU market stood still, or if there were no way to scale up
existing clusters...

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